A little religious reciprocity

By Cardinal George PellSeptember 24, 2006 12:00

Article from: Daily Telegraph

AUSTRALIA has come well through the week that followed Pope Benedict's passing reference to Mohammed in his university address on the role of reason in religion.I never expected violence in Australia, and fully expected Moslem leaders and commentators to have their say. This is their right.

Some moderates, such as Waleed Aly, came to grips with the problem, even if Sheik Hilali remained consistent and continued to play his usual game of personal criticism and completely avoiding the central issues in dispute: the relationship of violence to mainstream Islam and the Koran.


In Australia, Catholics - and even archbishops - are used to public criticism. This goes with the active presence of Christian principles in public life, andis a consequence of our precious rights to freedom of expression.


Prime Minister John Howard was correct to point out that "If Catholics rioted every time people attacked the Catholic Church, you would have riots on a very regular basis.'' If you don't like theheat, you don't go intothe kitchen.


Pope Benedict's passing references were different from the Danish cartoons, which were designed to offend, and different again from the foul, anti-Islamic insults of Theo van Gogh, the film director murdered in Holland three years ago.

 The Pope's quotation was designed to make us think, but not to offend.

Non-believers who think that tolerance requires us to acknowledge that truth cannot be known with certainty have to recognise that both Christians and Muslims make claims to religious truth.


 There is important overlap, but some elements of belief common to all Christians are incompatible with elements of belief common to all Muslims.

The doctrines that God isFather, Son and Spirit (Trinity) and that Jesus is also divine (Incarnation) are two examples.


 Such differences are noreason why we cannot respect one another, much less any reason why we should fight or subject anyone to slavery or second-class citizenship. Recently, Catholics have brought two new elements to discussion on Islam.

The Pope has led the call for reciprocity, for the rights we acknowledge for minorities in the West to beextended to minorities in Muslim countries.


 Christians have been suffering violence and death for years, from Nigeria, through Sudan toIndonesia. The recent murder of an Italian nun in Somalia was not isolated.

These evils are not totally one-sided, but years of silence have only seen them worsen. Now we need to speak such truths - prudently, in charity, but regularly. This is why the topic of violence is central.


 Is violence inconsistent with genuine Islam, or is it justifiable because, for Muslims, God's will is beyond such human categories as rationality and justice?  

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